Tennessee Anti-Drunk Driving Campaign Under Fire For Being Sexist


Cosmopolitan, Rebecca Rose, July 14, 2015 - This was just an all around terrible idea.

Drinking and driving is an absolutely terrible idea. But using sexist slogans to encourage young people to be safe is also a pretty shitty idea, as the Tennessee Governor's Highway Safety Office learned this week.

The Tennessean reports the Governor's Highway Safety Office rolled out a new campaign aimed at curtailing drunk driving in the state. The campaign used coasters with slogans and expressions that were, according to a statement from the agency, aimed at a "young male demographic." Those slogans included sayings such as "Buy a drink for a marginally good-looking girl, only to find out she's chatty, clingy and your boss's daughter." Another flyer that was part of the campaign also reportedly read, "After a few drinks the girls look hotter and the music sounds better. Just remember: If your judgement is impaired, so is your driving."

The flyers and coasters were given for free to some bars in the state and people immediately began to voice their objections.

Tiffany Cannon, a waitress at Charlie Bob's restaurant said her "jaw dropped" when she saw the slogans. "They were anti-feminist," she said. "It was ridiculous and rude to both genders."

"I'm all in favor of being snarky in a campaign, but you don't have to be sexist to do that," said Laura Creekmore, who runs a Nashville content strategy consulting firm. "It is unfortunate for the young men of Tennessee if we think we have to be sexist to get the message across."

In addition to the flyers and coasters, a section of the campaign's website called "Legends of the Stall," reportedly featured graffiti cartoons of binge drinking and other acts that some also found sexist and offensive.

A statement from director Kendell Poole of the Tennessee Governor's Highway Safety Office said the campaign was geared toward young males, which seems like an especially terrible justification for going in such a glaringly sexist direction.

"We take feedback from the public seriously and want to thank all of those who have reached out to share their opinions with us," a statement from Poole's office said. "It was never the intent of our office to offend anyone. This new initiative was designed to reach the young male demographic, who are statistically more likely to drive under the influence. Well-known adages, like dating the boss's daughter, were used to grab their attention within the bar environment. Our office continually experiments with new strategies in order to be effective with various target demographics, and we will be closely monitoring the results."

On Tuesday, Rep. John Ray Clemmons, D-Nashville, called for the governor to disavow the campaign altogether, calling it "ill-conceived" and "offensive" in a statement released to the media.

"It is not only offensive, but it is also inexcusable and a waste of taxpayer dollars. Frankly, I am furious," Clemmons said.

The uproar over the tone-deafness of the campaign seems to have worked, at least for now. Tennessean reports that the website, impaired.tntrafficsafety.org, was offline as of late Monday night.